Business & Technology

Toward a green economy

Two NYT pieces exploring green jobs

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- If you're interested in the media's version of Green Jobs 101, a good place to start is Wednesday's New York Times article, "Millions of Jobs of a Different Collar." But it's not a perfect start, because the article fails to demonstrate an understanding of the scale of this movement, and the author could have taken heed to one of his co-worker's pieces on green education and job-training. Here's how the article describes green jobs (emphasis added): Presidential candidates talk about the promise of "green collar" jobs -- an economy with millions of workers installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, brewing biofuels, building hybrid cars and erecting giant wind turbines. Labor unions view these new jobs as replacements for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a route out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are crucial to combating climate change. For those reasons, the issue of green jobs is something the Center for American Progress has given a lot of attention. This is the creation of a workforce to power a low-carbon economy. However, in the same places the article shows skepticism of green jobs, the article reveals that it does not entirely understand or convey the concept of a green workforce for a green economy.

Carbon policy details: Part 3

Carbon taxes vs. carbon trading

This is the third post in a series about details we are still getting wrong in the climate policy discussion. See also part one and part two. There is no shortage of economic analysis and policy discourse that shows that carbon tax and cap-and-trade methodologies can deliver economically equivalent outcomes. The general consensus -- at least today -- seems to be that since they're equivalent, it really comes down to politics, and it's politically difficult to do anything with the word "tax" in it, so we'll do cap-and-trade. I like the conclusion, but the rationale is pure bunkum. To understand why, we need only go back to my simple test of any climate policy proposal: the degree to which it encourages investment in capital that lowers atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Cap-and-trade and carbon taxes do not pass the test equally.

Casten gospel reaches NYT

Congrats to our own Sean Casten for getting the following letter to the editor in The New York Times: Re "States’ Battles Over Energy Grow Fiercer With U.S. in a Policy Gridlock" ("The Energy Challenge" series, March 20): Proponents of coal-fired power argue falsely that coal is cheap. Coal is a cheap fuel. But who cares? Coal can’t run an iPod. And electricity from coal — which also includes fuel, maintenance and capital recovery costs — is expensive. Indeed, no one is building coal plants without first securing regulatory guarantees of equity recovery. But when we guarantee that equity, we …

Windfalls

Why consumer protection means selling carbon permits

One of the thorniest problems in cap-and-trade programs is deciding how to distribute the carbon permits. Should the public sell pollution privileges or give them away for free? Some folks worry that if we make polluters pay for carbon permits, they'll just raise prices for consumers. That's a perfectly legitimate concern. Unfortunately it turns out to be true, whether we sell the permits or give them away for free. Prices rise by the same amount in either scenario. (The only difference is whether polluters reap windfall profits or whether the public earns revenue from selling the permits.) It may be counterintuitive, but it's true. It's also very hard to explain why this is the case without resorting to a lecture on economics. So in an attempt to clear things up, Sightline has put together this easy-on-the-eyes summary. It comes in four parts: A simple explanation. A slightly more detailed explanation. A look at Europe's carbon trading market. A review of the (basically unanimous) economic literature. Take a look and let us know what you think.

Don't look now, but clean tech is contributing to climate progress

New report on massive growth of renewables last year

Climate Progress is the title of my blog posts' main home, as much as the "progress" part strains credulity at times. I only see two major quantitative areas of sustained progress: clean energy deployment (especially in Europe) and private sector clean-tech funding. Those folk at Clean Edge, who wrote the best 2007 book on clean tech, The Clean Tech Revolution, have quantified these gains -- and made predictions about the future -- in a new report you can read here. Some interesting factoids:

Commute conundrum

Should emissions from employee commutes be included in company GHG inventories?

When businesses dip a toe in the rising sea of corporate action on climate change, the first box they check before diving in involves tabulating their own greenhouse-gas inventory. In getting your corporate house in order, the first step is defining where your yard ends and your neighbor's begins. The good news: There is a clearly accepted international standard providing guidance to companies sorting "what's in" and "what's out" for their GHG inventory. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard is the playbook everyone is working from. The bad news: Some issues are more clearly defined in the guidance than others, leaving individual companies to sort out their own best way forward. Emissions from employee commutes are one such gray area. In these early days, how leading companies come down on this issue is critically important in setting a precedent. The GHG Protocol does provide general guidance on this issue, but more specific direction is needed.

Mood in the hood

John Hofmeister, President of Shell Oil Company, was on Charlie Rose Tuesday night. About 22 minutes into the segment, he says the following [my own transcription]: If we don't drill more in this country, I am quite concerned about civil disturbances in our urban areas because of the price of fuel. ... I was meeting in Los Angeles with mayor Villaraigosa and I asked him a specific question because I lived there during the Rodney King civil disturbances. [I] said, "How is the mood in the hood based upon the price of gasoline compared to the mood in the hood at the time of the Rodney King disturbances?" He said it's threshold. Let us drill or those people will act all crazy again! You know how they can be when it comes to things like this. And they say environmentalists are alarmist.

Prasad responds

Carbon taxes work when there’s substitutability and revenue is locked down for environmental goals

This is a guest post by Monica Prasad, who wrote an op-ed in Tuesday's New York Times called "On Carbon: Tax, Don't Spend." It elicited responses from David Roberts and Charles Komanoff.  

Passover as if the earth matters

A call to action: Street Speakout Seders

The traditional Passover Haggadah teaches that in every generation, some Pharaoh will arise in destruction, and that in every generation, every human being -- not just every Jew -- must look upon herself or himself as if it is we -- not our ancestors only -- who must go forth to freedom. In this generation, what Pharaoh do we face, and what freedom must we seek?  

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